Thrifty Living: We've all stopped spending. It's the end of the world

reading the road, Cormac McCarthy's apocalyptic vision set at the end of the world, I was struck by how the things we regard as "valuables" – namely credit cards and cash – were utterly useless, as opposed to the huge value given to things we currently don't set much store by, such as tinned peaches and home-made toys. Coins are meaningless tokens. A pack of playing cards, however, is a thing of wonder.

McCarthy sets his hero in a dangerous, bleak, threatening and frightening landscape. However, at least it is a landscape that manages without the questionable attraction that is the Harrods Winter Sale. Which, by the way, is still on. Harrods calls it The Sale, as if it is the bargain hunter's paradise nonpareil. Except that this year all the bargain hunters are staying at home. All right, if you visit it, you might pick up a Chloé bag for £350, as opposed to £700, but I think that the giant red and white sale signs throughout the store indicate that Harrods is getting desperate. The end of the world might not yet be here, but human behaviour so far in 2008 indicates that we might (at last) be witnessing the end of shopping sprees as we once knew (and loved) them.

How else can you explain the giant adverts that stride down the store's outrageously tasteless "Egyptian" escalator? These say that if you spend £100 on one single Sale purchase, you'll be eligible for a Prize Draw to win an African safari for one lucky shopper. It's the "one single purchase" that's the give-away. So you can't just rock up at Harrods, like my parents used to, and buy 10 small but useful household things like bars of soap, fluffy towels or tights. You need to spend a ton right off, by plunging into the delights of a Nicole Farhi jumper (£115), a Paul Smith shirt (ditto) or some Sale lobster in the Food Hall. Harrods needs us to get lavish with our spending, because we haven't yet this Christmas and Mr Al Fayed needs his books balancing.

It's the same on the high street. It seems as if Marks & Spencer has only kept its head above water by slashing already discounted items, and other shops are vainly trying to keep control of our spending (that is, persuading us to flex the plastic), by extending their sales, offering 70 per cent discounts and tempting us with Final Offers.

But, apart from the women I saw charging around the Moschino concession at Harrods, it appears we won't be drawn. We've seen the debt-ridden future and we want no part of it.

Dear thrift seeker, I sense the rank odour of fear out there. Fear in shopkeepers, that is. Fear that we, the overdrawn public, have cottoned on to the fact that most people can't wear more than 20 pairs of shoes or three pairs of jeans a year. Fear that we might at last have clocked that throwing £700, (or even £350) at a hideous olive green bag with dozens of zippered pockets and a giant label on it is a total waste of money. Indeed, fear that the whole notion of "statement" bags is thoroughly unstylish.

And fear, finally, that we may all have simply stopped heroically spending money. Nowadays it seems that plenty of us are choosing to stay home with our children and play checkers with them. As does McCarthy's hero. All right, he does it while coughing up blood in a ruined house, but you get the idea.

Rather than taking the Junior Millards out to indulge in the former leisure activity of shopping, which always burns a hole in my wallet, I have determined to reintroduce the pleasures of Free Time en famille. This is not so much time off, as time away from the cash till. Things that work well in Free Time include playing with jigsaws, board games and train tracks. And there is always walking the dog to while away a bit of non-contact time with the MasterCard. And cooking.

"But Mummee," wails the eldest, "I wanna go shopping!" Too bad, I say. We are going to stay at home and play Scrabble. If she goes on and on (because naturally the attractions of the N1 shopping centre, in her mind, far outweigh the delights of coming up with JUDO, even on a triple word score with a double letter score for the J), I tell her that I can't possibly think about spending even a minute shopping for non-essentials, thanks to the monumental size of my tax bill. For which I must find sufficient cash in 12 days. Unless, between now and 31 January, the world comes to an end.

Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk

News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
newsMinistry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

    £30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

    Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

    £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

    Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

    £23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

    Day In a Page

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

    Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
    Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

    The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

    Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
    Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

    Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

    A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
    How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

    How books can defeat Isis

    Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

    She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
    The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

    The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

    The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

    Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
    Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

    Young carers to make dance debut

    What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
    Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

    Design Council's 70th anniversary

    Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
    Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

    Dame Harriet Walter interview

    The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

    Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

    Bill Granger's winter salads

    Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
    England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

    George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

    No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
    Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links